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Vietnamese GI children » ESR participates in US project launch

As it was already reported in a previous article, ESR Nastassia Sersté is involved in the project « Life courses of Vietnamese GI children » coordinated by Prof. Sabine Lee, Dr. Susan Bartels and Dr. Robert McKelvey, supported by Wellcome Trust and using the Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker® software.

After the first workshop in Canada (October 2016) and intensive interim work on the project over several months, the project was launched in the US. The goal is to study the Amerasians – which is the common name for Vietnamese GI children – of the Vietnam War living in the US today. Some of them came with the Operation Babylift in 1975, others have immigrated after the war and in particular after the Amerasian Homecoming Act in the 80’.

Prior to the launch event, project members, including ESR Nastassia Sersté, participated in a preparatory workshop in Orange County, California (United States), chosen for its significant Asian population, from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, as well as Amerasians.

The workshop took place from February the 9th to the 11th, 2017. The PowerPoint made by ESR’s Nastassia Sersté and Sophie Roupetz in October was presented to introduce the project to the project's assistants.

In this workshop project members got 'hands-on' with the research technology, using iPads to learn more about the SenseMaker® software. This included a training exercise using role-play as a way to prepare research assistants for the forth coming fieldwork. For example, what do the assistants do if the participant begins to cry or if he/she is nervous or he/she doesn’t want to participate anymore? It is important to think in advance about any particular situation or regarding reactions of participants.

The first interview was conducted on Saturday, February the 11th, and was successful. Interviews with Amerasians and their relatives, will continue for the next few months all around the US.

At the same time, we launched the alternative data collection to tablet-based which is via online data collection. A secure email link was sent to Amerasians living in the United States to record their stories and self-interpret them via the questionnaire. This link was also spread to social media with known Ameraisian membership.

For Nastassia, the launch and preparatory workshop was a significant milestone - providing her with a real turning point moment in her role as a researcher. In conducting her first interviews for the Vietnamese GI children project, she gained real insight into the life context of her research participants - for the first time. In this way, she was able to put into practice what she learned since the first meeting in Canada, as well as prepare her for her forthcoming Secondment in Vietnam.

She writes: “This experience and my involvement in this project is something marvellous for me. I learned many things in a short period, of course for the study and the research, but also about human beings and for myself in terms of professional and personal knowledge. Having these meetings and interviews revealed something more concrete for my research and my position as a researcher in History. One participant did the interview in Vietnamese. Even if I cannot understand any word in Vietnamese, I could feel what the participant shared through her story, I got her impressions, her mood, and her feelings about being an Amerasian. You are not able to say in advance if the interview will be in the joy or in the tears or other. In my opinion, this SenseMaker® software is amazing because it is completely anonymous so the participant seems to be more comfortable and more open to sharing his/her stories. Moreover, it is easy to use and it is more dynamic than a basic questionnaire. The interview enables to have a real exchange between the participant and the researcher direct on the field. I also got the opportunity to visit the house of an Amerasian who invited me. I was fascinated to see a Buddhist altar and a Christian Cross in the same room. You can learn many things only with your eyes and it gives you something more authentic than just reading a book. But working on the field is not always easy. I tried different strategies to find Amerasian people or people related to them in the US. I visited churches nearby, I asked the staff at my hotel if they knew Amerasians, and I also asked the personal of restaurants and shops. And when you found someone, it is uncertain he/she will agree to participate in the project. For sure it was a rich experience. I cannot wait to be in Vietnam and launch the next study.”

A couple of days after the project had been launched, Nastassia Sersté had a Skype meeting with Laurie Webster of QED Insight. She is an experienced Cognitive Edge SenseMaker® consultant from New York (US). She introduced an overview of the work behind the data collection with the SenseMaker® software to her. In this way, Nastassia was able to learn more for her work in Vietnam as project manager. She will be responsible for overseeing the data collection, supervising the research assistants and handling logistics. She will be able to monitor and analyse the data set by screening it for errors and duplicates.

Until Vietnam, Nastassia is already preparing the project, collaborating with Dr. Hang Truong, one of the assistants in Ho Chi Minh City, to be ready to launch the project in April 2017.

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